Courses at Deep Springs are intensive and interactive seminars. The average class size is eight, so every member must come prepared to contribute to the discussion. As a result, students devote a great deal of time and energy to their assignments, and discussions often achieve a depth uncommon at the undergraduate level.
Deep Springs employs three long-term professors: one in the humanities, one in the social sciences, and one in the natural sciences and mathematics. These faculty members stay at Deep Springs for as little as two or as many as six years. During this time they come to know the culture and to take part in the operations of the college. Three visiting scholars or artists also teach each semester, bringing a new range of ideas and course offerings to the college. The only required courses are Composition and Public Speaking; all other classes are chosen by students based on their interests. The curriculum includes both introductory courses and specialized courses seldom offered at the freshman and sophomore level at other institutions.
Faculty live on the Main Circle, less than a minute's walk from the dorm. It is traditional for professors to leave their porch lights on in the evenings, an invitation for students to visit them at home. Students develop their academic interests in one-on-one dialogues with their teachers, often leading to enduring friendships. Professors, both long- and short-term, are encouraged to take an active role in the community. Professors labor with students, teach them practical skills like bread making and knitting, hold impromptu poetry readings and stargazing sessions, and organize chess and Ping-Pong tournaments. Education is a reciprocal relationship at Deep Springs.
Students constantly try to seek a balance between academics, labor, and their committee obligations. In addition to the Public Speaking requirement, academic workloads each semester range from two to three classes (nine to thirteen credits), each of which meets at least twice weekly. Usually, students spend their mornings in class and their afternoons working, although some labor positions demand irregular hours early in the morning or late at night. The Student Body and its committees convene in the evening, as does Public Speaking. Academic work continues well into (and sometimes through) the night; someone can always be found typing at a computer in the library or hunched over Heidegger in the Boarding House, cup of coffee in hand.
Deep Springs has a library of approximately 23,000 volumes, a modest periodicals subscription, and computer work stations with Internet and e-mail access via satellite. California Inter-Library Loan provides additional resources. Our facilities are ample for the needs of the academic program and include a music room, a piano room, a laboratory, a darkroom, a ceramics studio, a library, a smithy, an auto shop, a woodshop, a saddle and leatherworking shop, fifty square miles of desert ecology and geology, and three classrooms. Classes are sometimes also held in unconventional locations, like professors' homes or the irrigation ditch.
Since its founding, the college has believed that in order to effectively serve humanity in their chosen fields, all students at Deep Springs must be proficient in both oral and written expression. As a result, Deep Springs students are required to take Composition the fall of their first year. Composition is a full four-credit course and is as rigorous as any other course at the college. Although its character will vary depending on the professor teaching the class, Composition students can expect to do a great deal of writing and to critically engage the question of how one ought to write.
All students take Public Speaking throughout their time at Deep Springs. Students generally give two graded speeches per semester, Terms 2-5, and one ungraded speech Terms 1 and 6. A student can thus expect to give eleven speeches in his time here. Public Speaking is held every Tuesday evening during term. Student attendance at every session is mandatory, and the community is usually invited to sit in.
Students use Public Speaking as a chance to hone their rhetorical skills and become better speakers, but it is also often used as an opportunity for students to address the Student Body or the community at large on issues of immediate importance, from the isolation policy to coeducation to the purpose of Deep Springs and the meaning of service.
Directed & Independent Studies
Under the supervision of a professor, students may take on independent or directed studies. A directed study is offered by a professor at student request, but is essentially designed by the professor. Directed studies introduce students to a specific body of knowledge, set of texts, or artistic medium. They should give students a general overview of the subject but also afford an opportunity for specific, individual exploration and research. Independent studies differ in that they are mostly designed by the student. Independent studies generally pursue a single well-defined, student-initiated academic project. Proposals for both independent and directed studies must be approved by the Curriculum Committee.
Term 1: Summer Seminar
The Summer Seminar is taught Term 1, and as such it is the incoming class's first introduction to Deep Springs academics. The entire first-year class and all the second-years who choose to stay over the summer (instead of the interim spring Term 6) are enrolled in the class. Often taught by an interdisciplinary team of several professors, it generally focuses on questions of political theory. The class is intended to be immediately and explicitly relevant to the Student Body's self-governance and each individual student's accommodation with the community. The Summer Seminar meets for twelve hours each week throughout the summer term.
Term 6: Interim Term
Terms 6 and 1 make up our two 'short terms'. All students are required to stay for eleven of the twelve terms of their two years at Deep Springs. Students take off either Term 6 of their first year or Term 1 of their second year. Students who stay for Term 1 greet the incoming first-year class and get a chance to participate in the Summer Seminar. Those who choose to stay for Term 6 have an opportunity to take shorter, more focused classes that might usually lie outside the Deep Springs curriculum. Term 6 classes can focus on questions ranging from constitutional law to French decadent poetry, and usually count for fewer credits than ordinary classes, as a result of their shorter length.